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Who Is Dorothy Brown?

We know her now as an ethically challenged stumblebum lurching from one mini-scandal to another. But there was a time when Dorothy Brown was perceived as an up-and-coming independent with the potential to one day challenge Mayor Daley. Which she did. She failed miserably, but unlike what the usually dead-on Ben Joravsky says here, her attacks against Daley were ferocious. It's just that the media wasn't listening - and/or didn't care. Let's take a look.

January 1999, Tribune: "Miriam Santos, popular vote-getter when elected Chicago treasurer four years ago, may be in trouble this time. That's the whisper after opponent Dorothy Brown won endorsement from the 43rd Ward's regular Democratic organization over the weekend - after both candidates made presentations.

"Santos, whose Illinois attorney general bid sputtered in November, is a former ward resident. To make it worse, Brown also got the nod from the ward's Republican organization. You have to like Dorothy's courage. She has been doing handshaking at CTA 'L' stops - and, as a general auditor (on leave) with the CTA, she has heard many complaints about service."

January 1999, Tribune: "A North Side alderman, pausing for a chat in a City Hall corridor on Thursday, asked the question of the day: 'Who is Dorothy Brown?'

"Indeed, little more than 24 hours earlier, Brown was an obscure candidate for city treasurer facing an uphill battle against a well- known and popular incumbent, Miriam Santos.

"But the incline of the hill suddenly became much less steep when U.S. Atty. Scott Lassar on Wednesday announced a dozen-count indictment against Santos in an alleged fundraising scheme stemming from her unsuccessful attempt last year to become Illinois attorney general.

"So who is Dorothy Brown?

"She is a highly focused and ambitious woman, one of eight children who grew up in humble surroundings in a little Louisiana town and later earned accounting, master of business administration and law degrees as part of an unrelenting drive to succeed.

"She is someone who, by her own account, has harbored political ambitions for years and set her sights on the treasurer's job back in December of 1996 - long before Santos' legal problems.

"And she is a candidate who gathered an astonishing 42,000 signatures on nominating petitions, far more than the 25,000 she needed.

"The total was 'beyond impressive,' said one independent political operative. It 'strains credulity' that she could have done it without the support of some political organization - like Mayor Richard Daley's, he asserted.

"But Brown insists that exactly 429 church friends, friends of friends, associates from African-American professional organizations and other supporters gathered the signatures in a highly organized grass-roots effort that included training classes.

"Brown said her campaign has received no help from Daley or any other organization political figures. That includes Frank Kruesi, a former Daley aide and old Santos nemesis who now is president of the Chicago Transit Authority, the agency that employs Brown.

"Brown, who as general auditor of the CTA reports directly to the agency's board, said she met Kruesi for the first time in December at a retirement party for an agency colleague.

"Brown, 45, lives in the Southeast Side's 8th Ward. She said she counts Cook County Board President John Stroger, the ward's Democratic committeeman, as a friend from whom she will seek an endorsement.


"She was helped by Squire Lance, a friend and onetime aide to former Gov. Dan Walker, who assisted in assembling an organizing committee made up mostly of African-American clergy, business people and professionals. It also included one former politician, Joanne Alter, who served on the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

[Brown lost the city treasurer's race to Santos.]

October 1999, Tribune: "If elected [circuit court clerk], Brown said her top priority will be the proper maintenance of documents and records."

February 2000, Tribune: "Brown, a lawyer, certified public accountant and general auditor for the Chicago Transit Authority, said better training and improved technology are the keys to solving problems in the clerk's office.

"Brown wants a study done to determine if problems stem from 'the system or that people aren't properly trained.'"

March 2000, Tribune endorsement: "Since her unsuccessful 1999 race for city treasurer, Brown has grown significantly in her ability to present herself and her ideas as a candidate. She certainly has a background that qualifies. She's an attorney and a certified public accountant. She understands what this job is - and what it is not. It is not a grand, policy-making job. It is an administrative position. Brown has the right ideas to run a clean and efficient operation."


["BROWN WINS DEM NOMINATION. Beat favored Levar, the slated candidate. She had built her own organization from her personal network. It held.

"With Pucinski opting not to seek a fourth term as clerk, Brown said she did some research on the clerk's office 'and realized the office was a perfect fit for my background.'"]

February 2004, Tribune: "A former employee in the Cook County Circuit Court clerk's office said Thursday that managers who work under Clerk Dorothy Brown are forced to sell political fundraising tickets or buy them if they are not sold.

"Barbara Nicosia, who served as president of the clerk's union local for 14 years before retiring at the end of 2002, said the managers would then try to sell the tickets to employees, lawyers doing business with the office or purchase them outright."


"Brown denied the charge in an interview Thursday afternoon.

"'No one has ever been pressured,' said Brown, who is seeking a second term.

"Brown said in the months after she took office in 2000 she met with the office's 2,300 employees and told them they would not be asked to donate to her campaign.

"'I said, Now, don't let anybody tell you I don't mean what I say, if you're ever pressured I want you to come see me personally. To this day, no one has ever come to see me.

"A former chief clerk, Ellen Krebs, said in a separate interview that on two occasions her superior handed her an envelope containing 10 tickets valued at $100 for Brown fundraisers. Krebs said she also was given tickets for lesser amounts on other occasions by her superior, whom she declined to name."

February 2004, Tribune: "Brown cites as key accomplishments the technological improvements she has made in her office as well as the training all of her workers have undergone.

"In her view, the office should be and can be a national leader in its use of advanced technology. To that end, she plans to introduce document imaging in the county division.

"Brown also intends to continue pushing employee training, which will include having all of the frontline counter workers learn the basics in five languages - Spanish, Polish, Italian, Hindi and Chinese - plus some sign language."

March 2004: Trib endorses Brown.

July 2004, Tribune: "A federal lawsuit filed Friday by a former employee of the Cook County Circuit Court clerk's office said he was fired two years ago after he repeatedly refused to buy tickets to political fundraisers for Clerk Dorothy Brown.

"The lawsuit filed by Benjamin Zomaya, who worked in the Purchasing Department, alleges that he also was subjected to harassment and that he complained to Brown in writing.

"Similar allegations were made against Brown by her opponent this year before the Democratic primary election in March.

"In a statement issued Friday, Brown denied that Zomaya's dismissal had anything to do with selling fundraising tickets."

April 2005, Tribune: "The name of Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown also has surfaced in discussions of possible Daley opponents."

September 2006, Tribune: "I have heard the call from many of the citizens of the city of Chicago," she said. "Today I am answering that call."


"Brown quoted philosopher William James, poet Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr., President Harry Truman and the Declaration of Independence during an 11-minute speech in a Hotel Allegro conference room packed with enthusiastic supporters.

"Questioned after her speech and during a series of interviews with reporters, Brown repeatedly took pains to avoid making Mayor Daley, who is expected to run for his sixth term in the February mayoral election, a focus on the day of her announcement. But she alluded to the contracting and hiring scandals that have plagued his administration."


"Brown continues to be considered an outsider by some Democratic Party leaders but maintains grass-roots support based in African-American churches, including her denomination, the Church of God in Christ.

"Present at her announcement were her pastor and Bishop Ocie Booker of the denomination's First Illinois Jurisdiction."

September 2006, Tribune: "Big box ordinance: Walls and Jackson criticized Daley for the veto while Brown has previously avoided taking a position, saying she agrees with both sides."

December 2006, Tribune: "Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is building an 'elitist city' that focuses on high-end developments downtown and projects such as Millennium Park while neglecting the neighborhoods and residents in need of affordable housing, mayoral challenger Dorothy Brown said Friday.

"'This mayor wants to make Chicago like New Orleans when they wanted to make New Orleans an elitist city after Hurricane Katrina,' Brown said during a taping of At Issue, which airs at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on WBBM-AM 780. 'We don't have Hurricane Katrina; we have Hurricane Daley . . . Low-income, middle-income people can hardly live in this town.'"


December 2006, Tribune: "Mayoral candidate Dorothy Brown on Thursday unveiled a 10-point plan for improving public education, gave Mayor Richard Daley a poor grade for his oversight of the city's schools and said the system suffers from 'educational apartheid.'"


"Daley considers the education issue his strength, 'but I give him a D-plus, and I think I am being very generous because of the fact that our schools are suffering in many parts of our town,' Brown said.

"Daley has touted progress, she said. 'I think it's a lot of smoke and mirrors, and our children do not need any more smoke and mirrors. They need to be able to compete in this global economy . . . I believe it is a great PR campaign.'

"Brown said that even though her daughter attended a magnet school, it is wrong to have a group of elite schools while having so many others where the quality of education is poor."

January 2007, John Kass: "'And I can't even get him to debate,' Brown said. 'He avoids everything.'

"She ticked off a litany of things she'd ask him, if the media ever demanded a debate and meant it. Like about white guys who drink with him and have Outfit connections receiving $100 million in affirmative-action contracts; and Hired Trucks, the Clout Cafe and cost overruns at Billennium Park, all that stuff the mayor doesn't know anything about. 'It's just sick,' she said."

January 2007, Tribune: "Mayoral challenger Dorothy Brown questioned whether Monday's endorsement amounted to a quid pro quo.

"But Obama insisted there was no deal during a news conference at Daley's downtown campaign headquarters."


"Brown assailed the cost of corruption under Daley, low city contracting totals with black firms and the torture of African- Americans by former police Cmdr. Jon Burge while Daley was Cook County state's attorney."

January 2007, Tribune: "Mayoral candidate Dorothy Brown Wednesday called for a new ordinance that would require residential developers, even those who receive no city assistance, to set aside at least 10 percent of what they build for low-income residents.

"Brown, whose proposal goes beyond a housing measure introduced recently by Mayor Richard Daley, also said the Chicago Housing Authority's 'Plan for Transformation' is a 'plan for transportation,' forcing some CHA residents to move to the suburbs."


"The first thing I want to do before I do any type of pledge is have the budget opened up to the public," she said. "I want to create a citizens budget review commission so they can look into that budget to see if there is any fat . . . Then we can make a more intelligent decision as it relates to any type of fee for the city of Chicago."

February 2007, Tribune: "While discussing her economic plan, Brown attacked the Daley administration's use of tax increment financing districts - or TIFs. Those government programs, aimed at redeveloping blighted areas, cap the percentage of property taxes paid to schools, parks and other taxing bodies for more than 20 years.

"Brown accused Daley of using TIFs 'to reward big developers,' although she did not offer specific examples.

"Brown said the city needs to be more accountable with the money it collects from TIFs.

"'We need to know that they're being used to actually develop blighted areas and do it for the entire city of Chicago,' Brown said."


"Dorothy Brown, one of two mayoral challengers, has criticized Daley for pushing 'glamor projects' such as the CTA superstation at Block 37 instead of focusing CTA management on providing commuters with relief from overcrowded trains and buses."


"Brown stopped the caravan to shake hands and talk to shoppers. "[Daley] was [Cook County] state's attorney when 100 black men and women were being tortured, and he ignored it,' Brown told two salesclerks at an electronics store.

"Daley said Friday that he has 'no problems' answering questions under oath in a civil lawsuit filed by a former Death Row inmate who said he was tortured by police while Daley was the county prosecutor.

"Brown's supporters plan to distribute fliers at African-American churches Sunday that allege Daley 'didn't lift a finger' to stop torture by former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

"'Say NO to the Daley/Burge team. Vote for Dorothy Brown,' the fliers read."


Of course, Brown was stomped in that election. And by no means am I endorsing her in the Cook County board president's race. But it would be nice to see her asked today about what she said about Daley back then - and how that would impact her agenda and her performance should she win.


Comments welcome.


Posted on January 26, 2010

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